Many people spend most of their week at work — but for some, that does not mean that work is the most important part of their life.
In fact, over a quarter of people in the U.K. do not think work is a key part of their life, according to a new survey by King’s College London. It found that just 73% of Brits said work was either very or rather important to them, making the U.K. the country that is least likely to put work first.
In the U.S., 75% of people said work is an important part of their life, putting the country in the fourth-lowest position.
The percentage is far higher in several other major economies, including Brazil with 96%, France with 94% and China with 87%.
The Philippines and Indonesia topped the table — 99% of people surveyed in these countries said work was very or rather important to them. Notably, however, both of these countries are also among those who are most likely to say it would be good for less importance to be placed on work. Sixty-one percent of people in the Philippines and 45% of Indonesians said this would be a good development.
Adults from 24 countries around the world were surveyed for the research report by the Policy Institute at King’s College London. It is part of the World Values survey, a globally recognized academic social survey that has been running since 1981.
Work as a top priority?
In both the U.K. and the U.S. only a minority of people believe work should always be a top priority. Twenty-two percent and 28% of respondents, respectively, agreed with the statement that work should always come first, even if this means free time is sacrificed.
In the U.K., there is also a difference between genders when it comes to holding this view, the report said.
“Within the UK, there is a notable gender difference in responses, with men (28%) more likely than women (16%) to say work should always take priority,” it noted.
The same is true for different generations, the report said.
“Both Gen X (17%) and Gen Z (19%) are similarly unlikely to think work should be prioritised above all else, while the Pre-War generation (43%) stand out as by far the most supportive of the view that work should always take precedence,” it said.
Only three countries are even less likely than the Brits to say work should not always come first: Australia, where 21% of people said this, Canada with 19% and Japan with 10%.
The differences between countries are significant when it comes to this question. Ninety-two percent of the Egyptian public agree with this view, the largest amount. Nigeria is second highest with 83%, followed by China with 82%. This is in line with the countries’ overall views on how important work is, the report said.
Egypt also has the lowest percentage of people who say leisure time is very or rather important with just 55%.
This figure is much higher in the U.K., the report noted.
“93% of the UK public say leisure time is very or rather important in their life — only slightly lower than Sweden and Norway, which come top on this measure, with 96% feeling this way,” it said. The U.S. sits roughly in the middle of the table with 89%.
The importance of hard work
Several countries that view work as highly important or believe it should take priority over free time also closely tie hard work to a better life.
Sixty-one percent of Egyptians said so, while 17% believe it was a mixture of hard work and luck, and 21% said hard work is less important than luck or connections.
The U.S. is not far behind, despite the country’s public having a more split view on the importance of work and how much of a priority it should be. Fifty-five percent of Americans say hard work is crucial to improving your life, whilst 34% said both luck and effort played a role.
China places between Egypt and the U.S., with 58% of people saying hard work leads to a better life.
The discrepancies between countries are again large when it comes to this question — only 16% of South Koreans agree that hard work leads to a better life, with 70% saying at least some luck is also needed.
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